A fraudulent solicitor posing as a UCSB Orchestra member is going door to door in Santa Barbara and Goleta asking for donations.
The suspect reportedly dresses in a tuxedo and claims that his funds will go toward a trip to London organized by the UCSB Music Dept. Authorities believe the recent incidents may be connected to several other cases of fraud throughout Southern California.
Richard Rintoul, conductor of the UCSB Orchestra, said that the department is not planning a trip to London and that this is a complete fraud.
“It’s totally odd,” Rintoul said. “I guess it’s been going on about a week or so. Then one of our professors in CCS, Leslie Hogan, e-mailed me saying that she had gotten solicited, so it was a red flag.”
According to Paul Berkowitz, chair of the UCSB Music Dept., similar instances have occurred in L.A. and other areas in southern California with the same tuxedo-clad individual.
“We only know about [the instances] through residents,” Berkowitz said. “I think it is four people now that were suspicious and called us to verify. [The solicitations are] completely untrue and [are] something that people should be aware of.”
Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept.’s public information officer Drew Sugars said police are working to find the suspect, but currently have minimal information.
Rintoul said that the solicitor’s actions could have a detrimental effect on any real fundraising attempts in the future.
“It breaks my heart that this guy, whoever he is going around and soliciting funds, and it kind of hinders what the orchestra can do,” Rintoul said. “It is a reputation in people’s minds that we are dishonest. Some poor sicko’s damaged brain has come up with this great idea. You’ve got to feel sorry for this person. Maybe they are doing it on purpose, maybe they hate the UCSB Orchestra, I just don’t know.”
Sugars said that he first learned of these incidents from UCSB and Brooks Institute, which has also recently seen similar problems with fraudulent solicitors. He has since received several calls from residents who reported having given money to the solicitor.
Anna Rodriguez, an admissions employee at Brooks Institute, said Brooks students and faculty have expressed concern about solicitations made in their name.
“Personally, I spoke with a woman who wanted to verify if [soliciting] is part of Brooks’ activities, and it’s not,” Rodriguez said.
Nina Gomez, the marketing and events coordinator at Brooks Institute, confirmed Rodriguez’s statement after speaking with officials from the school.
“I can tell you that we had three phone calls from the community on Thursday,” Gomez said. “We confirmed with our program directors that there were no fundraising activities that require students to go door-to-door soliciting.”
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. has asked the public to contact authorities if they encounter the solicitor.